Ultraviolet (UV) rays UV rays are the primary cause of skin damage and are a major risk factor connected to thethree most common types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Learn how to protect yourself from UV rays during UV Safety month and one of the hottest months of the year.
How UV rays damage your skin
Sunlight is essential to life and helps humans develop nutrients for healthy bodily functions, but it can also be the source of significant skin damage. When we don’t take the necessary precautions during our time in the sun, our skin can feel the effects.
UV rays can cause sunburn, increasing the risk of developing skin cancer. UV exposure can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fend off infection and malignant cells. UV light can also cause premature skin aging and signs of sun damage such as wrinkles, actinic keratosis, solar elastosis, and liver spots.
Be aware of the factors that affect UV exposure. These factors include the time of day, distance from the equator, cloud cover, altitude, and reflection off surfaces (water, snow, pavement).
Shade. Finding shade is the easiest way to protect yourself from UV rays, especially between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, when the UV rays are the strongest. Either set up your spot under a tree or bring a tent with you if there is no cover. Remember to take breaks in the shade if you are in the sun for long periods of time.
Check the UV Index. Most weather apps have a section that tells you the UV index before heading outside. If you don’t have access to your phone, try the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, that means the sun’s rays are strongest and you should seek shade.
Pick the right sunscreen and reapply. The sunscreen that you choose should have an SPF of at least 15 (SPF 30 or higher is recommended by the American Cancer Society) and be broad spectrum, meaning it protects you from both Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply a water-resistant sunscreen every 2 hours or sooner if you are in the water. Remember: sunscreen is a filter- it doesn’t block your skin from all UV rays.
Wear sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses protects your eyes and the skin around your eyes from the sun. Look for sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays for maximum protection. According to the American Cancer Society, labels that say “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” mean the glasses block at least 99% of UV rays. Sunglasses labeled “cosmetic” block roughly 70% of UV rays. If there is no label, assume the sunglasses provide no UV protection.
Be mindful of your clothes. Bring cover-ups to shield your skin from the sun like a long sleeve shirt and something to cover your legs. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face, neck, ears, and head. You can also look for clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) label. The number on the label specifies what fraction of the sun’s UV rays penetrates the clothing. The higher the number, the more protection you get from UV rays.
Wellzesta Life allows staff to send out Messages and Alerts if they need to tell residents that the UV rays are higher than normal. Life’s daily wellness content also includes articles and videos that teachresidents the importance of skin protection, the best sunscreen to use, ways to avoid skin damage, and more.
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